Monday, August 14, 2017

Santos Lectures Pence

It happened that Mike Pence went first to Colombia for his Latin America visit, so it was up to Juan Manuel Santos to tell him that Donald Trump's comments on Venezuela were counterproductive.

Santos said no Latin America country would accept any form of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela and that it should never even be considered. Recalling more than a century of U.S. military action throughout Latin America, Santos said no Latin leader wants "that phantom" to reappear.

There's an important point here. Trump supporters (or those playing devil's advocate) say that of course every option is on the table, that's true for all presidents, and Trump was just stating the obvious. But Santos is pointing out that in Latin America the military option should remain off the table. It won't work as planned and is not credible.

Remember, that's coming from an ally. And ideologically, Santos is not one to harp on U.S. intervention, given how deeply involved the U.S. government was with Plan Colombia. In other words, the Trump administration needs to make sure it's listening.

Instead, as I noted two days ago, the administration is insisting on treating the situation as bilateral.

Earlier Sunday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told Fox News Sunday that Trump talked about the possibility of military action to "give the Venezuelan people hope and opportunity to create a situation where democracy can be restored.

The only "opportunity" will come with multilateral pressure. The only way to generate multilateral pressure is to avoid inflammatory statements. Coalitions are hard to construct and they require a lot of keeping your diplomatic mouth shut.


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